Dutch crime journalist Peter R. de Vries has died just over a week after being shot in the head in Amsterdam, according to a statement by his family published by CNN affiliate RTL News.
“Peter fought to the end, but he could not win the battle. He is surrounded by people that love him,” the statement said. “Peter lived by his conviction: ‘On bended knee is no way to be free.’ We are impossibly proud of him and at the same time inconsolable.
“His family, partner, and loved ones want to process his death in peace and we ask everyone to respect that.”
The 64-year-old, known for his investigative work exposing the criminal underworld, was shot five times, including at least once in the head, on July 6, on a busy street in central Amsterdam shortly after leaving the RTL TV studios, where he frequently appeared on air as a criminal expert.
De Vries was a household name in the Netherlands, renowned for pursuing cold cases, exposing miscarriages of justice and hosting his own televised investigative show for nearly two decades, he had regularly received death threats in connection with several cases.
Caretaker Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Thursday that his passing was “almost impossible to comprehend,” and that his murder “must not go unpunished.”
“Peter R. de Vries was always dedicated, tenacious, afraid of nothing and no one. Always looking for the truth and standing up for justice. And therefore all the more dramatic that he himself has now become victim to a great injustice,” Rutte said in a statement on Twitter.
“We owe it to Peter R. de Vries to ensure that justice takes its course. We may and will never tolerate this in the Netherlands.”
Amsterdam’s mayor also paid tribute to de Vries, calling him “courageous, free-spirited, and determined.”
“He helped people in their fight for justice and kept the rule of law on track with his critical attitude towards authorities and investigative bodies,” Femke Halsema said in a statement. “For that we are very grateful to him.”
Just hours after de Vries was shot, Dutch police pulled over and arrested two men on the A4 highway near Leidschendam, whom they suspect of “direct involvement in the shooting incident.” They are a 35-year-old Polish man who lived in the Dutch town of Maurik, and a 21-year-old man who lived in Rotterdam, according to Dutch police.
RTL news reported on July 9 that a magistrate judge had extended their detention for at least a further two weeks.
Over the last year, de Vries, who was also the director of a law firm, had been acting as a counselor to the key witness testifying in a trial against Ridouan Taghi, known as the Netherlands’ most-wanted man, who was arrested in Dubai in 2019 and is now facing murder and drug trafficking charges.
De Vries is the third associate of the witness, known as Nabil B, to be killed, according to RTL News. In 2018, the witness’s brother, Reduan B, was shot dead. A year later, the lawyer for the witness was fatally gunned down in an Amsterdam street.
In 2019, Taghi publicly denied reports that he had threatened to have de Vries killed.
Dutch and European leaders last week condemned the shooting of de Vries as an attack against journalism and democracy. Rutte said it was “an attack on a courageous journalist, and with that, an attack on free journalism, which is so essential for our democracy.”
The head of the European Council, Charles Michel, described the shooting in a post on Twitter as “a crime against journalism and an attack on our values of democracy and rule of law.”
Press freedom campaigners have also condemned the attack and pushed for a thorough probe, with the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) calling on Dutch authorities to determine whether De Vries was “targeted for his work.”
Tom Gibson, CPJ’s EU representative and advocacy manager, said: “Journalists in the EU must be able to investigate crime and corruption without fearing for their safety.”
De Vries was not only highly regarded within the Netherlands for his work uncovering wrongdoing. In 2018, he won an international Emmy Award in the news and current affairs category for his undercover investigation into the disappearance of teenager Natalee Holloway in Aruba three year before. He is also well-known for his extensive reporting on the 1983 abduction of beer magnate Freddy Heineken.
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